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‘Elections in Zimbabwe have already been tainted before polling’ – analysts

Zimbabwe’s upcoming harmonised general elections have already been discredited before the polling day due to an alleged “tilted playing field, and disbarment and exclusion of opponents.”

Zimbabweans are set to elect their new leaders on the 23rd of August this month. But political analysts are saying that the electoral environment is not even.

They argue that the playing field is characterised by repression of opponents and the partisanship conduct of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).

Speaking at the Pre Election Conference hosted by the Election Resource Centre (ERC) in Harare on Wednesday, Human Rights NGO Forum Director Musa Kika accused the ZRP of exercising “biased policing and unequal treatment of political parties”.

“There is biased policing and unequal treatment of political parties by the ZRP. A leaked internal ZRP memo in July 2023 confirmed the unwarranted behaviour by the police to interfere with opposition rallies, which the police admit taints the credibility of the polls,” he said.

Kika, a prominent human rights lawyer, concluded that the frequent undermining of democracy has already tarnished the plebiscite that will be held in 14 days time.

“The 2023 harmonised elections have already been tainted before polling. The elections have been characterised by higher levels of closed space, tilted playing field, and disbarment and exclusion of opponents.

“This has primarily been enabled by manipulation of the law and of state institutions which facilitate free, fair and credible elections, among them the police, the election management body, the judiciary and state media.

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“Best efforts must go towards exploring ways to ensure that the will of the people finds expression under the current conditions, as opposed to seeking to change the conditions first. The conditions are more difficult to change for purposes of the current elections.

“The approach therefore is to fight under the conditions as opposed to fighting the conditions,” Kika said.

Speaking at the same platform, Director, Public Policy and Research Institute of Zimbabwe (PPRIZ), Gorden Moyo recommended that the Parliament of Zimbabwe should amend the Electoral Act to ensure that it explicitly bans the use of state resources for electioneering activities.

“The Act should explicitly provide that state resources may not be used for the purposes of election campaigns. The relevant provision should also clearly define what constitutes the usage of state resources and what the sanctions for the violation of the rule are.

“Parliament should also amend the Electoral Act in order to empower the ordinary citizens to effectively deploy social media tools in facilitating exposure of electoral fraud like vote buying,” he said.

Moyo further stated that ZEC should develop a framework for monitoring political parties in order to curb voter inducement and vote buying. The offenders of the framework and the law should be prosecuted.

“Civil society should advocate and apply pressure for police and other law enforcement agencies to arrest, investigate and diligently prosecute those involved in vote trading. The CSOs should also take the offenders to court.

“Civil society should intensify voter education and enlightenment campaigns on the negative implications of vote trading, especially on how it promotes political corruption and undermines good governance.

“The sensitisation campaign should also focus on educating the electorate about the danger in accepting short term gratifications and selling their voting rights for peanuts, mortgaging their future, and the future of the next generations,” Moyo added.